Cook your way to a healthy smile :)

A few weeks back, I was contacted to see if I would be willing to take part in a campaign run by SimplyHealth called ‘Cook Your Way to a Healthy Smile’.  Having been told off by my dentist earlier in the year for eating all things bad for my teeth and for pulling my wisdom teeth out finally, I eagerly responded, saying that I would be happy to take part in the campaign.

I was sent a box of organic produce from Abel & Cole and asked to come up with a meal from the contents.  The items I received in my box are known for being superfoods for teeth and I was keen to whip up a dish using them.

Firstly, the delivery from Abel & Cole was fantastic.  When ordering, I commented that I would not be available to take deliveries between the hours of 6:20am-6pm on weekdays due to work, so would leave a large plastic container along the side of my house which the delivery could be placed inside for safe keeping until I returned in the evening.  The delivery rocked up a few minutes before 6:20am one morning, so I was able to take it inside before work!
Cook your way to a healthy smile - chicken saladIn the box I received a large bag of spinach, a pack of celery, some strong cheese, a carton of milk, a pack of sausages, one of chicken legs, walnuts, brazil nuts, some potatoes and dozens of good-to-eat apples.

For me, there is no better meal than a salad when it comes to eating healthily (or, not so healthily – I like to throw lots of items into my dish!) and quite often when I go out for a meal, it is a salad I choose.  Dan doesn’t eat any salad items, so I tend to save eating them for lunches or when we go out for a meal at a restaurant.  Or, like in this occasion, when Dan has swanned off to football for the afternoon and I’m just cooking for one!

Ingredients:
* 1 chicken leg
* 1 large handful of spinach
* 1/2 stick of celery
* 1 small handful of walnuts
* 1 small block of cheese
* 1/2 an apple
* 1 potato
* a pinch of salt
* a sprinkling of pepper
* a blob of olive oil << is a ‘blob’ an official measurement?!

Cook your way to a healthy smile - chicken saladI rubbed the chicken leg in a little olive oil mixed with salt and pepper, before placing it in the oven on 200° for an hour.  Whilst the chicken was cooking, I scrubbed the potato, which I then cut into small, bite-sized chunks, ready to boil.  I left the skin on, as I like lots of texture in my meals.  I removed the stems from the spinach and cut the leaves into several pieces, throwing them into a large mixing bowl.  Once the potatoes were fully cooked I tossed them whilst still warm, along with the spinach in a little oil and salt, to taste.  At this time of year, I feel all salads should contain some warm elements!

The spinach and potato mixture lined the bottom of my dish, whilst I chopped the apples, celery and cheese into small cubes.  The walnuts were chopped into slightly smaller cubes, and then scattered over the top of my dish.  I removed the chicken from the bone once cooked and laid out over the top of my cheese, so that the cheese could get slightly melted.Cook your way to a healthy smile - chicken saladTa-da!  Salad as I like it best – with lots of different items and lots of different textures!

Annoyingly I’m never home in the daylight anymore, and I cannot take very good pictures in artificial light, but you get the jist of my meal.  There was enough left for snacking later on that evening too…!

Apples and cheese snackApples with cheese used to be one of my favourite snacks when I was younger and it’s one I hadn’t had for a while.

The infographic below explains why the six foods are ‘superfoods’ when it comes to a healthy smile and why it can be a good idea to incorporate them into your meals.

Superfoods for your smile

 

**(Infographic from https://www.simplyhealth.co.uk/sh/pages/healthy-you/six-superfoods-for-your-smile)  I received a box of organic goodies from Abel & Cole in return for this post.

What are your favourite items to include in a salad?
What are your favourite healthy snacks?

Busy teaching times

This week seems to have rushed by so quickly.  I can’t believe a fortnight has already passed since I ran Mablethorpe Marathon.

The biggest and most depressing thing about this week is that it seems the Winter darkness has quickly started settling in.  Runs always happen by the light of a headtorch now, unless I can squeeze a run in at the weekend.  This is because when I get up for work, it is dark.  Within an hour of being home from work, it is also dark.  Depressing times!

First night out in a headtorchI’m actually on the hunt for a new headtorch at the moment, – ready for Dusk ’til Dawn at the end of October.  Although mine is usable, and I did indeed use it last year at the same event, I would like something with a stronger beam so that I can place more trust into where I am putting my feet whilst out on the course.

I do love the Winter though – there is something comforting about getting home from a walk in an oversized knitted jumper and sitting in front of a fire with a cup of hot chocolate to warm up.  Shame we no longer have a woodburner in our front room. :(

The darker mornings have meant that I have lost 45 minutes of potential marking time on my way in to school each day, which is my biggest annoyance of the Winter months.

Too dark to mark on the commute to workThat is the view I now get in the mornings on the way to work.  So, for the time being I’ve turned my attention to Twitter in the morning and for another week at least I can still mark on the way home.  That will change at the end of next week though once the clocks go back.

Too dark to mark on the commute to workYou can see how dark it is on arrival at school now.  This was taken at 7am in the week.

I don’t always spend every morning marking, but I’m currently at the point in the year when marking is rather high.  This year I have six sets of year eleven students and two sets of year tens.  (Approx 230 kids)  All who are working on coursework this year.  The year elevens will each have ten pieces to be marked and returned before Christmas, and the year tens probably four or five.  They will be given a chance to improve and then I shall have every piece back to remark again over the Christmas holidays.  I’m trying to stay on top of things!

As well as my GCSE core students and a handful of younger classes (which thankfully involve much less marking!) I also have three classes of sixth form students this year, although they are much smaller in number, and a class of year 10 Optional GCSE students who I adore.  I’ve built up a really good relationship with the group and they are so excited to check their coursework marks when I put them online.
I’m knackered each evening at the moment though, and other areas of my life seem to have slipped by the wayside right now and I am so looking forward to catching up with things over the half term holidays again.

Today, in between tidying, cleaning, marking and hopefully a bit of blog reading, I shall mainly be refreshing the live results page for the Autumn 100 and following the Twitter hashtag.  Two members of our club are out there, with a third planning on helping them run through miles 50-75 in the early hours of tomorrow morning.  There are also several lovely bloggers working their way around the 100 miles, including Sarah and Louise.  I would love to tick a 100 mile race off my bucket list, although I need to improve my speed first, as I would never make the cutoffs at the moment.
One day…

Dan is off at football this afternoon so I knocked up something at lunchtime for just me.  I realised that I had enough ingredients in to make a similar take on the ‘Oven baked chicken with an orange and sesame quinoa salad’ I had made from my Hello Fresh box a few weeks back.  I had no chicken, but I did have a ball of mozzarella.  I had no pepper, but I did have a pack of fresh mushrooms.  I didn’t have the rice vinegar or spice paste, but I lived without those, and was brave enough to throw my kale and veggies in with the quinoa, soy sauce and orange juice to create this beauty…  A concoction I would never have thought of before my Hello Fresh meal arrived.

Mozzarella and quinoa kale saladSuper tasty, and I made two portions, so I will have enough for my lunchbox on Monday as well.

Have the darker mornings made a difference to you lately?
Do you have any headtorch recommendations for me?

Hello tasty dinner!

…Or Hello Fresh, as it is actually called! 😛

If I’m honest, I have been stuck in a dinner-rut for a while now and have had the same 7-8 dinners on rotation for the past few years.  It doesn’t help that Dan is the world’s pickiest eater and the only vegetables that he will willingly eat are carrots and peas.

Now that I’m back at school and out for at least 12 hours each day I don’t really want to come home and worry about what to cook each evening.  I often use the slow cooker for meals when I am thinking ahead, but this can become a bit same-y after a while.

Basically, I either wanted to employ a fantastic chef to supply me with delicious food whenever my tummy rumbled, or I wanted an easy way of making some top-quality new and filling meals.

I read a review by Anna several months ago now about how she had been talked into signing up for Hello Fresh boxes by a door-to-door salesman, but was actually enjoying them so much that she had continued her order past the initial trial.  Everything about the Hello Fresh service sounded appealing to me and so I decided to sign up for the Classic Hello Fresh box for three meals a week to see how I got on.

Each week you can decide which of the five meals available that week appeal to you the most and select them ready for the following week.  On the Hello Fresh website you can scroll through dishes from previous weeks and I noted that there was such a wide selection of meals that have been used.  I thought that perhaps the meals would have been on rotation every month or so, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Because I don’t return from work until 6pm I chose a ‘safe place’ for the delivery driver to delivery my box at home each week.  My selected safe place was next to my recycling bin along the side of my house.  If I was to continue ordering boxes through the winter though, I would set up a more sturdy safe place for the boxes so that the produce inside would not be damaged from the elements.  I literally could not believe the size of the box when we returned home from work on the first Monday.

Hello Fresh boxI’m not sure how I was expecting enough ingredients for three meals to fit into a smaller box but the box was about as large as one of the (many) large craft storage containers I own and rather heavy to pick up to bring inside.  I was so excited to get it unpacked and look through the ingredients which had been delivered though!

Hello Fresh box ingredients

All the chilled ingredients were carefully wrapped in tiny little ice packs and wool lining.  They arrived perfectly fresh and ready to eat/be stored until required.  All ingredients that are required for the meals have been included in the box each week, apart from salt, pepper and the odd dash of olive oil.  Even items like stock, spices and cloves of garlic are included, just in teeny tiny containers for the exact amount you require.

Hello Fresh box items

You also get a thick sheet of about A5 size containing instructions for each meal.  The sheet has a slightly shiny surface (to allow for any wild pan sloppage) and contains step-by-step instructions on how to create the dish, along with photographs of the process and a snapshot of the finished meal.

Hello Fresh recipe cards

My first week of meals contained the following:

1. Pan-fried Chicken with goat’s cheese and pear salad

Pan-fried chicken with goat's cheese and pear salad (Hello Fresh)

2. Refreshing Pasta with peas, pancetta and mint

Refreshing Pasta with peas, pancetta and mint (Hello Fresh)

3. Quickfire Beef Enchiladas

Quickfire Beef Enchiladas (Hello Fresh)

What did I learn from week one?

  • I learnt that Dan’s favourite meal of the week was the salad.  Well, after I had removed the spinach and pears from his half at least!  But he loved the mix of walnuts, warm chicken and goats cheese over the new potatoes.  This is something that I shall make again.  (I served his share with a side of peas just so that he got a portion of vegetables into him as part of his evening meal!)
  • I learnt that pasta doesn’t have to be boring.  I was a very fussy eater as a child, as was my brother.  My poor Mum only ever cooked a selection of about ten different meals that we would both eat, and that included pasta.  Pasta with lots of grated cheese on top and served with sweetcorn on the side.  Except I’m pretty sure my brother didn’t like the sweetcorn?…I think this has meant that I now tend to associate pasta with being a quick and easy yet incredibly boring meal choice, never choosing to order a pasta dish when eating out and often putting a pasta bake dish in the oven for nights when I’m going to be back late from running as it requires very little effort.  I adored the change in texture achieved by adding the pine nuts to this dish.
  • I learnt that I see enchiladas as primarily a lunch meal.  Perhaps because they are served in a wrap, and I tend to associate wraps or sandwiches as portable and therefore a lunchtime food.  This was the only Hello Fresh dinner where I felt like I needed dessert afterwards!
  • When cooking these dishes you need to make sure you have a lot of pans available, as often the recipes call for two or three pans on the hob, another in the oven and a couple of bowls on the side containing sauce/some sort of seasoning!

Week number two of the meals contained:

1. Chermoula Chicken with chorizo lentils and roasted peppers

Chermoula Chicken with chorizo lentils and roasted peppers (Hello Fresh)

2. Duck Steaks with spiced chickpeas, sweet potatoes & lemony yoghurt

Duck Steaks with spiced chickpeas, sweet potatoes & lemony yoghurt (Hello Fresh)

3. Sage and Butternut Squash Risotto

Sage and Butternut Squash Risotto (Hello Fresh)

  • I learnt that a bit of spice on a dish can completely change the flavour and turn it into an exciting meal.  I’d also never tried lentils before.  Yep, I normally favour the veggie dishes but I can’t remember having ever seen these on a menu before and wouldn’t have ever thought to hunt them out in a supermarket.
  • I learnt how to heat spinach to add to a dish.  Literally the best thing ever, and so quick to do.
  • Despite Dan being really good and trying so many new foods over the past fortnight, there is only so far I can push it and he refused to try any of the Sage and Butternut Squash Risotto, so I had that one for a couple of lunches instead!
  • Bella is still learning boundaries in our new house and when I sat down for a few minutes in the lounge after munching through my first home-cooked duck she decided to jump up onto the worksurface in the kitchen to lick out the frying pan.  Dan happened to be in the kitchen at the time, so shouted at her and booted her out the back door.  His solution to the problem though?  To cover the washing up with a tea towel!  Oh, to be a man!

If you are careful about your shopping and would class yourself as a ‘frugal’ shopper, Hello Fresh may seem a little pricey.  Boxes are £39 per week for three meals for two people (you get greater value if you choose to have more dishes per week (you can choose 3 or 5) and the more people you order for (2 or 4).  I received a £20 discount when I signed up for the service using Anna’s sign up code which made starting out a little less of a hit on my purse.

I think that the cost of the meals works out better than going out to a restaurant for dinner several times a week though and I also feel much happier knowing that I have eaten a healthy, well-rounded meal in the comfort of my own home.  I love that I have learnt new skills in the kitchen as well as discovered ingredients I’d never come across before, or dared to try, creating new combinations to construct my meals.  Knowing a little more about foods such as lentils and pinenuts and how to prepare them I will be much more likely to purchase them and experiment with adding them to dishes in the future.

I intend on continuing to use Hello Fresh for inspiration although slightly less regularly as it is more expensive than my weekly shop would be otherwise.

If you would like to try Hello Fresh, I have a discount code which will give you £20 off when you sign up.  (Just so you know, using my referral code would also give me a further £20 off my next box.)  Just enter the code X4BXEG in the referral box when you sign up and we will both be winners!

Have you tried Hello Fresh?
How do you get inspiration when you want to try new dishes?

Keeping running interesting

There is nothing that bores me more than a flat, straight stretch of road when it comes to running.  I’m not someone that thrives on knowing I can bash out mile after mile at exactly the same pace and run in exactly the same way to achieve this each time.

I much prefer hilly routes, bendy routes and running off road.  Yes, I did just say I prefer hills to flat!  I know hills aren’t for everyone but I love the adrenaline of pushing myself up the hill and then allowing myself to relax and let my legs glide along on the ride back down.  If I can see for miles into the distance on a run I get bored.  I don’t want to know what I’m going to see on my run a mile before I ever get there.  And I absolutely adore the child-like carefree running that involves scrambling up banks and splashing through the muddy puddles which are most often found with trail running.

Tonight I headed out for a run on my own.
At night when I run on my own I don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to where to go.  A lot of the routes I run from home are off-road and if I want to stay in a street-lit area I’m limited to running around the outskirts of town (about a three mile route).  Fine to run once but I object to repeating it several times over to get in a long run at night.  I don’t have any issues running in the dark but I’m not sure that heading out on a long run on my own past daylight hours is the safest move with the world the way it currently is, so I tend to stick to 3-4 miles around the outskirts of town and through some sidestreets to make up any extra mileage.

Today I decided I was going to make it more interesting by running one mile steady, one mile tempo, one mile very easy and another mile tempo.

IntervalsNothing wildly exciting, but little things like this keep me focused when I’m out on my own and make it a little more exciting for me.

I returned to find Dan had been experimenting in the kitchen and had made me a burger (which was actually a mushroom!)

Mushroom burgerI had a handful of chips he’d placed on the side and a side salad, but I loved eating my mushroom burger topped with orange pepper and red onion.  Plates should always be as colourful as this!

I made a real effort at lunch today as well after making do with a Cuppa Soup and some tangerines yesterday.  My lunchbox contained a large salad made up of leaves, cherry tomatoes, mushroom, orange pepper, a carrot and a few chunks of cheddar cheese.

Mushroom saladFor dessert I savoured a Cashew Cookie bar over the best part of an hour, every so often nibbling little bits from around the edges.  I was very happy to see this on the back of the packet…

Cashew cookie

…although more on that another day.

I popped onto the nakd website earlier this evening after enjoying my mushroom burger as I knew nakd were promoting Veganuary – going vegan for January.  I have no intentions of going completely vegan, but at the same time it’s no secret that I tend to enjoy vegetarian or vegan dishes much more than I do meat ones.  Every time I have a delicious meal I feel all enthused about trying out some new recipes and that’s where I am right now.

How do you mix your running routines up?
Are you a nakd bar fan?
Do you eat vegan foods?
 If so, please share your favourite vegan meals with me!